Affordable Housing Trust Fund Board - Aug 23, 2022
Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/30421/18.
This was a meeting of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) Board of Trustees, plus representative of other boards that are considered stakeholders in the formulation of the Trust's action plan.
(Karen Kelleher, AHTF Board) Ms. Keller begins with a short history of Arlington's Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The fund was created by town meeting in November 2022, to support the creation and preservation of affordable housing. The trust fund uses the same definition of "affordable housing" as the Community Preservation Act. The stakeholders groups for the trust fund's action plan include the Select Board, Community Preservation Act Committee, Arlington Housing Authority, Arlington Redevelopment Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Housing Corporation of Arlington.
(Neal Mongold, AHTF Board) Mr. Mongold says the trust fund board was seated in 2021 and started work in the winter of 2022. They began by taking stock of organizations that provide affordable housing in town, learned about past precedents, and familiarizing themselves with planning documents like the Housing Production Plan. Mr. Mongold says the board started a community engagement process in the summer with a survey, and over 800 people responded. They distributed information about the survey on street corners, on the bikeway, and using online channels. After the survey, the board held several listening sessions targeted to specific populations: renters, seniors, residents with disabilities, young adults, and people of color. The board is currently preparing a draft action plan.
(Jaclyn Pacejo, AHTF Board) Ms. Pacejo says the board's goals are (1) to solicit feedback on priorities, (2) to generate interest and support for creating affordable housing, and (3) to be inclusive and build consensus. The board members would like to reach people who are most likely to need affordable housing. She says the board plans to work closely with stakeholders.
Ms. Pacejo says the board would like to build on work done for the Housing Production Plan and Fair Housing Action Plan. They distributed a survey in June and July, conducted listening sessions in July and August, and held a public forum on July 28th. There will be a meeting in September to discuss the draft action plan.
(Phil Tedesco, AHTF Board) Mr. Tedesco summarizes the survey results. A broad range of people responded to the survey, and the respondent demographics look more like the town than other survey efforts. 75% of respondents felt that Arlington needs more affordable housing, including housing for teachers, restaurant owners, workers, and people living in cost-burdened households.
Survey respondents expressed a desire to prioritize affordable housing for families, seniors, people experiencing homelessness, and people with disabilities. Respondents also favored targeted extremely low income, very low income, and low income. There was less support for targeting middle income households, though the number in support was far greater than the number in opposition. Prioritizing lower income households had the strongest support.
In terms of strategies, survey respondents expressed a preference for policy changes to incentivize the creation of affordable housing, having local funds dedicated to that effort, and being in alignment with climate change and DEI goals.
Overall, there was support for more housing. 61% favored having more housing. 13% weren't sure if they supported more housing in general, but would favor it if that was the best way to create affordable housing.
Mr. Tedesco explains that Arlington's town meeting approved a home rule petition to create a real estate transfer tax. This is awaiting approval by the state legislature, after which the town will hold a local referendum. 63% of respondents were highly likely or likely to support the real estate transfer fee.
(Jaclyn Pacejo) Ms. Pacejo says the survey was intended to reach a large number of people, while the listening sessions were more targeted. They didn't get as much listening session participation as they hoped, but still came away with good personal stories and feedback.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher wishes to acknowledge Calpurnyia Roberts and Katie Einstein for their work in developing an inclusive process. It will take a lot of work before we as a town get good at inclusive outreach. Ms. Kelleher says the board plans to publish a draft action plan after Labor Day. Afterwards, they'll have another stakeholder meeting to get feedback on the plan.
Ms. Kelleher stops to take questions.
(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak says he appreciated the list of reference material that was included in tonight's agenda, and had the opportunity to review MHP's Municipal Affordable Housing Trust Fund Guidebook. The Guidebook said that some funds prioritize aid and assistance, while others take an active role in property acquisition and development. Mr. Revilak asks if the board had any preference between those, or other strategies.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says that as of now, everything is still on the table. The board may prioritize working with private partners.
(Neal Mongold) Mr. Mongold hopes to see the board act as a coordinator for collaborative efforts and sharing resources, rather than having disparate groups working independently.
(Eric Helmuth, AHTF Board, Select Board) Mr. Helmuth says he'd like to learn more about how to balance those two goals -- assistance and development. He thinks it's possible to do a little bit of both, but ultimately, the metric is about trying to figure out a strategy that works for Arlington.
(Christian Klein, ZBA) Mr. Klein was pleasantly surprised at seeing support for more affordable housing, and for more housing in general. He says the ZBA tends not to hear town-wide perspectives in 40B cases, and asks how 40Bs would work with the AHTF.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says there's no one formula, and we'll have to figure that out. She suggests the fund could try to support a larger number of affordable units in a 40B, or have some units at a deeper level of affordability.
(Phil Tedesco) Mr. Tedesco suggests there could be collaboration across boards. The idea is to get everyone rowing in the same direction.
(Erica Schwarz, Housing Corporation of Arlington) Ms. Schwarz wonders who the housing supporters are, and whether they're civically active. She's interested in how the trust could work with the Housing Corporation of Arlington, and if there'd be a possibility for collaborating on land acquisitions.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says the board agreed on a set of guiding principals, which are
- Prioritizing for the greatest need
- Leveraging resources for maximum impact
- Planning for diversity and inclusion
- Advancing sustainability while creating affordability
- Using and growing knowledge and capacity around affordable housing
(note: I've paraphrased these goals from the presentation slides).
Ms. Kelleher says the goal is support, rather than competition.
(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson has a question about the first principal. He asks who the people with the greatest need are, because there are a number of way one could define that.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher acknowledges that there are different groups with needs, and they're not always comparable. She says this is meant to be a general guiding principal. An example might be providing subsidies for extremely low income renters.
(Gene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if the principals could call out leveraging funding to create more affordable housing.
(Phil Tedesco) Mr. Tedesco says that different opportunities will look different. He thinks that making things better is a win.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher asks if the fund should commit to using a certain percentage of its funds for households at or below a specific income level.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says that makes sense as an aspirational goal, but it might prevent the board from taking advantage of other opportunities. He notes it's possible for aspirational goals to run up against operational goals.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher would like to see the fund used to preserve and modernize existing affordable housing, as well as to create new affordable housing. That includes proactively planning for the capital needs of our existing portfolios.
(Jack Nagel, Arlington Housing Authority) Mr. Nagel is encouraged by the desire to preserve existing affordable housing. He hopes the AHTF can provide resources and understand the needs of AHA's portfolio. He says the AHA can bring other resources, like Section 8 vouchers.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says the we could try to attract new affordable housing developers to support existing resources, by providing additional capacity. We can also use the market to help us.
(Beverly Gallo, Action Plan Consultant) Ms. Gallo says that affordable housing developers should be considered a part of our team. She'd like to get a project in the bucket every year. She's spoken with several affordable housing developers, and they were mainly interested in seeing zoning and the entitlement process made more transparent. She says they don't want to get bogged down in local politics. Untangling affordable housing development from local politics would help. She says that affordable housing developers also want to be sure that the community has their back. They can be stakeholders and part of the conversation.
(Len Diggins, Select Board) Mr. Diggins thinks the select board can use it's ability to collaborate with other communities. For example, by working on transportation; less expensive transportation helps to reduce costs. He's thinking about things like car shares or EV shares. The idea is to make it easier for people to get here.
(Erica Schwarz) Ms. Schwarz says HCA can't do all projects by themselves. She thinks it would be great to bring in developers where HCA could work with them as a minor partner, to strengthen HCA's capacity.
(Eric Helmuth) Mr. Helmuth thinks there's work to do around misinformation and polarization. There's lots of disparaging talk about developers, but developers are how you get housing. He thinks there's an opportunity for people in leadership to promote a positive narrative.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says the ARB has two meetings scheduled in September. He thinks it would be terrific if the AHTF Board could get on the ARB's agenda.
(Jack Nagel) Mr. Nagel says that leveraging funds is important, as is understanding how to address current needs. He plans to speak with people at the housing authority, to discuss ways they can engage.
(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein thinks the ZBA would like to find a way to engage with the AHTF board. He thinks it would be great to try having that conversation, maybe in late September or early October.